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2 Killed, 95 Injured at Rock Concert in Israel : Accident: A Southland teen-ager is among the dead. Youths were trampled after fans broke through a gate.

July 20, 1995|MARY CURTIUS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

JERUSALEM — Thousands of frantic parents jammed a telephone hot line or drove to the southern desert town of Arad on Wednesday after two teen-agers--one from Southern California--were crushed to death and 95 were injured in a stampede at a rock concert there.

Henny Yitzhak, 16, of Woodland Hills, and Eitan Peled, 17, from the Israeli city of Beersheba, were fatally trampled when fans broke through a gate and stormed into an arena where Machina, a popular Israeli rock group, was scheduled to give its farewell concert.

The concert was part of a weeklong music festival, billed by its promoters as the "Israeli Woodstock." It opened Monday in Arad.

Music festivals are common in Israel, but police spokesman Eric Bar Chen said that Tuesday night's stampede was the first serious incident to occur at such an event.

In a nation where most young men and women enter the army for two- to three-year stints at age 18, and where illegal drug use or excessive drinking are still rare among the young, even open-air rock festivals tend to be tame by American and European standards.

Israelis expressed shock and anger in phone calls to radio talk shows throughout the day Wednesday. "This culture is destroying the country," said a man who identified himself only as Amos. "We should return to Jewish culture; this is Hellenistic culture."

Education Minister Amnon Rubinstein said the incident revealed a fundamental flaw in the value system of Israeli youths. "This should fortify our determination to introduce self-discipline in schools. We want our children to be better behaved," he said.

Bar Chen said the trouble erupted Tuesday night when as many as 5,000 people without tickets tried to push their way into the Machina concert when the main gate was opened to about 18,000 ticket-holders. He said the hundreds of police who were on the scene evacuated the arena and canceled the concert.

But dozens of youths were knocked to the ground before the area was cleared. Five remained in hospitals Wednesday, and hospital officials said that two were in serious condition. Bar Chen said the police launched an internal investigation of their handling of the incident.

The Israeli government said it would also set up an investigatory committee.

Meanwhile, the scheduled performers refused to go on stage.

By early evening, the festival's organizers announced that pressure from parents and performers was forcing them to cancel the festival. Hundreds of thousands of people who were camped out in the area were offered free transportation home.

In Netanya, friends and family gathered to comfort Yosef Ben Yitzhak, Henny Yitzhak's brother. In a telephone interview, Ben Yitzhak said that Henny--who was born in Israel, then moved to Los Angeles with her parents in 1982--had been spending her summer vacation in Israel.

"She was a great kid," Ben Yitzhak said. "She was a good student, very active in the Jewish community in Woodland Hills. Everybody loved her. She just went down there with a bunch of friends, planning to stay a couple of days and come back."

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